Time to migrate

Our summer has reversed itself lately.  We arrived in Vermont with a full agenda of events and responsibilities, and now that they are done, we are in a lazy phase.  The weather has reversed too, from the cool and rainy days of July to an uncharacteristically hot August, and warm nights full of damp air, so that the dominant sound has changed from chirping birds and waves on the beach to the droning of fans stirring sluggish air. This is exactly backwards.  Normally July is hot and humid and August is a gradual slide into dry cool fall weather, but this year Mother Nature has decided to do things a little differently, which has confused everyone.

Emma is in bed late this morning, propped up on pillows with a thick book.  She doesn’t seem inclined to get up and enter the world, probably because there is little to look forward to today.  We are expecting a Sunday of little activity, and morning is damp and warm again, presaging a cloudy and sultry day.  Yesterday I coaxed her out of bed by making waffles, which probably set a bad precedent for future mornings.  But she is on summer vacation, visiting her grandparents, and we tend to cut her a lot of slack during the summer so she can be a kid.  When there aren’t other kids visiting us here at the lake, she spends her days painting watercolors, reading books about dragons and talking cats, playing on her Nintendo DS, splashing in the lake, and taking in the occasional SpongeBob episode.  I think this looks like a waste of youth to many older people, but I remember summers spent in similar unproductive activities, too.  I suppose it can’t all be hikes, homeschooling, and karate lessons.  We’ll be back to that stuff soon enough anyway.

Alex and Charon came back the Vintage Trailer Jam with us, and together we spent a couple of quiet days recuperating from the intensity of the Jam.  They were content to simply rest on the deck with a book, or snooze on the couch, which helped Eleanor and I force ourselves to relax as well.  I’m in between issues of the magazine, so I have a couple of weeks of lighter workload before I have to kick editorial work on the Winter 2009 issue into high gear.  When we were full-timing we’d take this opportunity to disappear into a national park for a few days (where cell phones and Internet usually didn’t exist), but since we are here in Vermont we’ve just been reading and hanging out with local friends.
Charon is back to work in Virginia now, and Alex has since departed for Michigan with a load of miscellaneous parts for our 1968 Airstream Caravel.  (If you read this blog last summer you know that I’ve been working on completing that trailer during our visits here.  We got a break over the winter, when our friend Ken said he’d finish the job in his workshop.)  In June, Brett delivered the Caravel there, but a few critical parts were left behind because they were stored in my parents’ basement.  We loaded Alex up with those parts and this weekend he delivered them to Michigan too.  I am lucky to have such friends.  As they say, “Friends help you move.  Real friends help you move trailers.”

So now entire Caravel is in Michigan, and I have hope that it will be completed by mid-winter.  It really doesn’t need much, other than re-building of the overhead cabinets, drawers, and installation of the interior furniture that I built last summer.  Ken, being a perennially hard worker and a strong believer in shiny aluminum trailers, has spent the last several Saturdays polishing the exterior — a bonus I hadn’t asked for.  If the trailer is complete and roadworthy by mid-winter, I may go up to Grand Rapids and fetch it back to Arizona.

Our main Airstream has been getting shuffled around a little too.  We discovered in Saratoga Springs that the refrigerator was not cooling properly when it was running on gas (but worked fine on electric).  This is very strange because these adsorption-type refrigerators use a single cooling unit.  The unit relies on about 200 watts of heat to function, which can be provided by a small electric heater or a gas flame. We suspected a blockage due to spiders but Alex and I disassembled the unit and found nothing suspicious.  We blew the chimney clean with compressed air but this didn’t help (although a bit of something charred, like a fried ant, did fall out).

With home solutions not helping, we were forced to hitch up and tow it into South Burlington to see the local competent RV repair shop.  They could not find an overt problem either, but the flame seemed a little low to their appliance expert.  A tech disassembled the burner elements and cleaned them.  Like us, he found only a tiny bit of soot or burnt material.  Still, this seemed to solve the problem.  We ran the fridge on gas for several hours and it now appears to be functioning normally.

I’ve backed the Airstream into its tricky spot in the driveway for the third time, and now we seem to be done with tasks and obligations.  All of the local friends have visited, and we’ve had dinner on the deck a dozen times.  We’ve ridden in the Glastron, sailed the Buccaneer, skiied behind the Whaler, and burned huge piles of driftwood on the beach.  Last night was another party on the beach Tiki Bar with half a dozen of the regulars who always come, and it was fun, but it also felt like possibly the last Tiki party of the summer.  This late summer weather can’t last, not up here near the Canadian border. In a couple of weeks days in the 80s will be a memory and the first cool breezes and early sunsets will start to warn of an approaching fall.  Soon the leaves will start to show color, but by then the boats will be put away and no one will be thinking of wakeboarding or waterskiing.

This means it’s time for us to start planning our trip back to Arizona.  Even though we have weeks of decent weather yet to come in Vermont, I’d like to get rolling soon.  We have a very loose plan in mind that brings us through about a dozen National Park sites, and Google Maps suggests that our route will be 3,841 miles, not including side trips.  This will take two months for sure.   Of course, the plan is highly subject to change depending on weather, fuel prices, and interesting things we find along the way.  We’re going to use the usual method: pick a couple of “must-do” stops and have a rough timeline in mind, and a few short-term destinations, then let the rest of the trip develop as we go.

We also have vague plans for Arizona.  I’d like to get back in that wonderful period between low desert air-conditioning and the end of high-altitude camping.  That means mid-October.  But if we are having fun on the road, we can forgo the option to tent-camping at 6,000 feet in the Chiricahua or the Santa Catalina mountains.  There’s also the likelihood that business obligations will force us to shorten the trip back, so that I can concentrate on new projects in the fall and winter without the pleasant distraction of full-time travel.

With all these considerations in mind, we can only take indirect aim at our travel plan.  The only thing that is certain is that summer is ending, and we must start our annual migration once again.

About the Author

Editor & Publisher of Airstream Life magazine